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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Harper vows to promote human rights

December 7, 2009

By John Ibbitson
Globe and Mail Update
December 4, 2009

Despite rebuke from Chinese Premier, the Prime Minister says he will
continue to press principles of democratic governance

Stephen Harper vowed today that his government will not let the pursuit
of trade with China dampen Canada's commitment to promoting human rights
in that country.

In a speech to business leaders in this city of glittering towers and
ubiquitous neon, the Prime Minister predicted that the future of
Canada's economy and the world's lay with China and the Pacific Asian
nations. "In the 19th and 20th centuries our economy was built largely
on trans-Atlantic trade," Mr. Harper told the audience of more than 500.
"But it is clear that in the 21st century, trans-Pacific trade will
increasingly fuel our economic growth."

Mr. Harper is here this week to promote Canada's interests within
China's burgeoning economy.

But "a mutually beneficial economic relationship is not incompatible
with a good and frank dialogue on fundamental values like freedom, human
rights and the rule of law," he maintained.

The Conservative government's insistence on promoting a human rights
agenda with China, its support for the Dalai Lama of Tibet and its
concern for Canadian citizens imprisoned in Chinese jails for peacefully
protesting against the regime led to a pronounced cooling of relations
between the two governments in recent years.

The Prime Minister's visit culminates efforts going back a year and more
to repair the breach. But it led Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao to rebuke
Mr. Harper when they met in Beijing earlier this week for failing to pay
more attention to Sino-Canadian relations. Nonetheless, Mr. Harper
declared his determination to continue promoting the principles of
democratic governance with China even as his government sought to expand
trade ties.

"In relations between China and Canada, we will continue to raise issues
of freedom and human rights, and be a vocal advocate and an effective
partner for reform, just as we pursue the mutually beneficial economic
relationship desired by both our countries," he declared.

As if to remind the Chinese that Canadians have died in defence of
freedom in Asia, Mr. Harper carries on to Hong Kong, tomorrow, where he
will commemorate the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers who died in the
defence of the then-British colony of Hong Kong during the Second World War.

He concludes the trip with a visit to South Korea, where Canadians
fought during the Korean War, and where he will address the National
Assembly on Monday, before returning to Ottawa.
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